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Originally published April 5, 2014 at 3:33 PM | Page modified April 5, 2014 at 9:24 PM

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Fanaticism on both sides of gay-rights issue

The gay-rights side — the side I’m on — has just about won. But now we’re starting to act as intolerant as what we defeated.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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When the Boy Scouts ousted a Seattle troop leader last week because he told a news crew he was gay, his troop rightly noted that to them, his sexuality was irrelevant. He was doing a good job.

“This is a nonissue here. We’ve gotten no complaints from parents,” said the head of the church that had asked him to be the troop leader.

So the real reason the national scouting organization moved to get rid of him was image. We don’t condone this, so we can’t be associated with it. No offense.

It’s an outrage that a person can be purged not for anything to do with his job, but simply because of who he is.

Except that also last week, a Silicon Valley technology firm, Mozilla, buckled to public pressure and ousted its new CEO, Brendan Eich, when it was revealed he had given $1,000 to Proposition 8 opposing gay marriage six years ago.

Officially he resigned, but you can be sure he was told to go. There was no evidence his views against legalizing gay marriage had any effect on his various jobs at the company, including in his treatment of gay co-workers. (He’d been there since the 1990s.)

So this was also a decision about image. Mozilla decided that a marriage traditionalist, a one-man, one-woman devotee, made the company look archaic or bigoted. So he was purged.

I realize these cases have differences — in the facts and in all the history that came before. But they are not that different in sensibility. One was hounded out for who he is, the other for what he believes.

What happened to live and let live?

It’s one thing to say that when gays or lesbians are getting married and they go into a flower shop, they should be waited on like anyone else. That’s the new expectation in our state, and one I believe should be enforced.

But this Mozilla CEO wasn’t discriminating against anyone. He was hounded out for contributing to a political campaign back in 2008, one in which the people of California voted his way. (That law has since been overturned and gay marriage is legal in California now, as it is here in Washington.)

Are we now going to purge anyone who wasn’t on the gay marriage side? I looked at the anti-gay-marriage contributor list from our 2012 vote on Referendum 74. It has 5,700 names on it, including people who work at all of our signature companies, such as Amazon, Starbucks, T-Mobile, F5 Networks and Microsoft (which had 19 contributors).

There were 35 contributors from Boeing, including a senior manager. There are anti-gay-marriage doctors and nurses from Harborview, Group Health, Swedish and the Fred Hutch, as well as a professor at the UW Medical Center.

There are also teachers at seven local public-school districts, a superintendent and two local community-college instructors. My point: It would take a pogrom through every layer of society if we really want to rid even our liberal region of anti-gay-marriage beliefs.

The Boy Scout leader was ousted for being honest about who he is. Gays and lesbians have suffered from witch hunts like this going on forever. It’s appalling that it continues to this day.

But hounding out a CEO for what he believes is also fanatical. Especially since being against gay marriage was a stance shared until recently by most top liberal Democrats — such as the current U.S. president. Mainstream religions, like the Catholics, still are opposed to gay marriage, as is 45 percent or so of the population.

Maybe give them some time — some room — to come around to the new way of thinking. If they don’t? As long as they aren’t bothering anybody, leave them be.

I’m a longtime supporter of both gay rights and gay marriage. But I do wonder, now that my side has basically won, if we’re becoming another flavor of the intolerance we protested against.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com



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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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